El Salvador orders 24-hour lockdown of jailed gang members

SAN SALVADOR, April 25 (Reuters) - Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele late on Friday ordered a 24-hour lockdown of prisons containing gang members, and said their leaders would be sent into solitary confinement after a sudden spike in homicides during the day.

“No contact with the outside world. Shops will remain closed and all activities are suspended until further notice,” Bukele wrote on Twitter shortly before midnight. “Gang leaders will go into solitary confinement.”

Bukele said the “maximum emergency” lockdown would be enforced while police investigated some 22 homicides reported on Friday. That number was the highest total in a single day since Bukele took office last June, a police spokesman said.

Only a few years ago, El Salvador, which has long been plagued by powerful street gangs known as maras, had the highest homicide rate in the Americas.

However, murders have fallen significantly under Bukele and the Central American country has in recent months registered several days without any homicides.

El Salvador has imposed some of the strictest measures in the Americas to combat the spread of the coronavirus. (Reporting by Nelson Renteria Editing by Marguerita Choy)